“I enjoy the kind of environment that is constantly moving forward and searching for new sounds, textures and different ways of shaping the music,” says Unni Løvlid in a recent interview in conjunction with the experimental Punkt Festival in Kristiansand, Norway.
Løvlid is unquestionably one of the most diverse and intrepid musicians fostered by Norway’s scene of traditional music. While maintaining her dedication to folk music, she has over the years become an artist and vocalist associated just as much with contemporary music, electronica and daring crossover projects.
Hailing from Hornindal, close to Norway’s western cape, Løvlid first rose to recognition as a preeminent traditional vocalist, participating in the elite category of the national folk music competitions and reaping acclaim for her recordings of traditional tunes. As recently as 2006 she won the Artist of the Year Award at the Folkelarm Festival. However, over the past years she has pursued a number of projects and musical idioms that have taken her a long way from the stereotypical, traditionalist folk singer. Following diverse collaborations with people such as Arne Nordheim and Maja Ratkje, and with performances at the Ultima Festival, among others, she has emerged as a force in contemporary music and her latest solo albums have established her as an artist with a personal, genre-less expression.
This year she released Rite, a record that was quickly recognized as a remarkable piece of music and arguably one of the most important albums of the year. Rite has been characterized as extra-terrestrial – some say primordial – as a profound process of awakening. Løvlid relates that she spent around four years working on the material for the record, meticulously examining sounds, timbres and expressions from her previous records and unearthing deep motifs and musical idioms that she wanted to bring to the fore in full force and clarity.
Most critics admit that they were taken by surprise, even though that is exactly what they expected from Løvlid, who has made it a kind of trademark to use her traditional background as a platform for intrepid explorations and the creation of music that is uniquely hers.
“I need to do different things, experience diversity and meet new people all the time,” says Løvlid. Travelling almost constantly – between projects, genres, people and places – she embodies the restless and free spirit that lies at the heart of progressive folk music.